(…continued) In Ephesians 1:17 Paul says, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” “So that you may know him better,” it says, very much the language of a personal relationship. Along with all the exalted talk in that chapter about Christ being so far above all earthly powers, there is this additional little comment about wanting us to get to know Jesus better. But how do we know him when we cannot even see him?
There is a difference between “knowing some things” about Jesus, and “getting to know him better,” as it says in Ephesians. That difference can be compared to the difference between knowing about a person from reading his or her resume, and then getting to know them in person after they are hired and have been on the job for a while. A resume will tell you many important facts, facts that would become a part of any relationship. But getting to know the person adds a far deeper dimension to the relationship. In person, you learn not only facts about them, but you begin to know their personality, their strengths, and their weaknesses. They might go out of their way to help you, and you grow to appreciate them; or they may approach things in an entirely different way from you, and you find yourself at odds with them often. Either way, you are indeed getting to know them better.
So if we want to try and understand what it means to get to know Jesus better, we can begin by looking for some of the same things that we see as we get to know people. For example, I just mentioned how we might come to appreciate another person that helps and supports us. And who has given us more help and support than God? Everything we are and have is from him. Now, we learn that as a fact when we learn the catechism. In the Luther’s meaning to the first article of the Apostle’s Creed it says, “I believe that God has created me and all that exists.” The Bible has much to say about being thankful to God for all he has done. But we can know that as a fact, and still never give it another thought, living without any gratitude toward God, without ever feeling any need to give him thanks. Getting to know Jesus better would include growing into a deeper appreciation of everything as God’s gift. Believing that God created the world is one thing; taking the time to God thanks for the gift of each day is something different. Having a personal relationship with Jesus would certainly include that kind of gratitude.
Getting to know another person better might also include knowing enough about them to trust them (or not trust them). Getting to know Jesus better would certainly mean learning to trust him more and more, even in spite of all appearances to the contrary. In that most familiar of all the Psalms, the 23rd, we read, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” Even in the most desperate of situations, when facing death itself, we can still trust God to bring us through, says the Psalmist. We learn in the rest of the Bible that bringing us through in the end means bringing us to eternal life even after death has ended everything for us here. Having a personal relationship with Jesus would mean not merely knowing that as a Bible verse or as a fact, but in actually taking a daily hope and confidence in that trust.
As you get to know another person better, there will inevitably come those times when you wrong each other, and there then needs to be some apologies and forgiveness. This is also much like our relationship with God. Getting to know Jesus better would mean not only knowing such words as sin and repentance and guilt and confession, but actually understanding and feeling that we have sinned against God; that we do need to confess our sins before him, and that we do receive his forgiveness.
Gratitude, trust, and forgiveness are all aspects of getting to know someone better. Even though we cannot see Jesus, these attributes will become more and more a part of a growing faith as we get to know Him. Then, just as each of those things will be a part of any loving relationship, loving God also becomes a part of faith. “We love God because he first loved us,” says I John 4:19, but our love, as our love for other people, is always an incomplete and imperfect love. Loving God, who we cannot see, is difficult, and creating such feelings within our hearts can be even more difficult. When you think about the size of the universe, and even the world, and about how many people are living now and have ever lived, it is also difficult to comprehend that God loves each one of us individually. Many years ago the Psalmist expressed that thought when he wrote, “When I consider the heavens, O Lord, what is mere man that you are even mindful of him.” Yet God does love us, and then invites us to get to know him better so that we may begin to return such love. As we get to know Jesus better, we will be able to better love him and trust in him and be thankful to him.
Ephesians 1:17 — I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.
–Richard, Bishop of Chichester, (1197-1253)